Woods' golf being overshadowed by scrutiny

By Doug FergusonMay 14, 2013, 11:11 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Tiger Woods has faced more scrutiny that any other golfer from his generation. Maybe ever.

Just not this variety.

Woods must long for the days when the golf world obsessed over his swing changes (all four of them) and questioned his coaches (all three of them). He was criticized for not playing enough tournaments and not giving the tournaments he did play enough notice that he was coming.

Some complained he practiced so early in the morning that paying customers didn't get a chance to see him. Others complained he didn't sign enough autographs. Most of it was petty.

But this is different.

Now it's his integrity on the golf course that's being questioned.

Woods won The Players Championship on Sunday for his fourth victory this year. Making it even more memorable, Woods ended his public spat with Sergio Garcia by posing with the crystal trophy. They were tied with two holes to play, and Garcia hit three shots in the water.

That all seems like B-material compared with the buzz over the drop Woods took on the 14th hole of the final round.

He hit what he called a ''pop-up hook'' with a 3-wood from the tee, and the ball landed in the water left of the fairway. Consulting with Casey Wittenberg, he dropped it some 255 yards short of the green. Woods then hit a remarkable shot short of the green, pitched on and missed a 6-foot putt to take double bogey.

The Internet has been alive with video showing the ball's flight on the 14th, along with analysis dissecting what was and was not said by a TV analyst, and seemingly endless theories how the ball could possibly have crossed land where Woods took his drop.

The chatter won't stop, even though there is nowhere to go with it. Consider this statement put out by Mark Russell, the Tour's vice president of competition: ''Without definitive evidence, the point where Woods' ball last crossed the lateral water hazard is determined through best judgment by Woods and his fellow competitor,'' the statement said.

Woods conferred with Wittenberg, his playing partner.

''I saw it perfectly off the tee,'' Wittenberg said. ''I told him exactly where I thought it crossed, and we all agreed. So he's definitely great on that.''

And if video suggests otherwise?

Decision 26-1/17 says a penalty would not be appropriate because it comes down to an honest judgment.

Of course, this might not be that big of an issue except that Woods in his most recent tournament – the Masters – was guilty of taking an illegal drop on the 15th hole at Augusta National. He eventually was docked two shots, but spared disqualification by the Masters because officials said they erred in not talking to Woods about the drop before he signed his scorecard. The rules back up that decision, though this one (Rule 33-7) is subject to interpretation. It could have gone either way.

That debate rages on. Should he have withdrawn for his own benefit? Did the Masters bail him out? Meanwhile, Adam Scott has a green jacket at his place in The Bahamas and he apparently wears it every morning. Good for him.

Back to Sawgrass, where there was that Saturday incident with Garcia which was one case where Woods shared some responsibility.

The scene on the par-5 second hole was chaotic. Woods was so deep in the trees that it appeared it was his turn to hit. Garcia stood over his second shot for the longest time. There was a burst of cheers when Woods pulled out his 5-wood. Garcia finished his swing and looked over at the crowd, clearly frustrated.

Woods and Garcia don't like each other and haven't for the better part of 13 years. That much can be established.

Garcia suggested in a TV interview during the storm delay that Woods pulled the club at just the right time to fire up the crowd and disrupt his swing. Woods said in a TV interview that evening, ''The marshals, they told me he already hit, so I pulled a club and was getting ready to play my shot.''

Sports Illustrated talked to the chief marshal for that section of the course, John North, who said he stood over the ball to keep the gallery away from it and was 5 feet away when Woods played his shot.

''Nothing was said to us and we certainly said nothing to him,'' North said. ''I was disappointed to hear him make those remarks. We're there to help the players and enhance the experience of the fans. He was saying what was good for him. It lacked character.''

To suggest Woods purposely tried to distract Garcia is a stretch. It was hard to even see Garcia from where he was in the trees. But it was silly to hang this on ''the marshals,'' unless he mistook any of the hundreds of people around him as marshals.

Woods' mistake was not doing what just about every other Tour player would have done – look over to the other player to determine who was away. This would require eye contact, and there wasn't much of that in the third round.

Garcia's mistake was not doing what just about every other Tour player would have done – say something to Woods, instead of calling him out on TV. The ball was back in Woods' court at this point. Instead of telling Garcia he didn't see him (if he didn't) or apologizing (if he did) he threw out the line about the marshals and couldn't resist taking a shot.

''Not real surprising that he's complaining about something,'' Woods said of Garcia.

Both of them should have been put in time-out.

''It's very unusual for an individual spat to get out,'' Padraig Harrington said. ''There's no winners when that gets out there. I think when players have an issue, they find things. So if you don't like somebody, you read things in, and you make more of a situation than there is.''

Lost in this mess is that Woods is playing golf at a very high level. He is four short of Sam Snead's record for career wins. He is a month away from the next major, where he will be the heavy favorite again. Woods is motoring right along.

But it sure is a bumpy ride at the moment.

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Hammer in position (again) to co-medal at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 14, 2018, 10:37 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer is in position to go for a rare sweep in this summer’s biggest events.

Two weeks ago, Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas, was the co-medalist at the Western Amateur and went on to take the match-play portion, as well.

Here at the U.S. Amateur, Hammer shot rounds of 69-68 and was once again in position to earn co-medalist honors. At 6-under 137, he was tied with 19-year-old Daniel Hillier of New Zealand.

“It would mean a lot, especially after being medalist at the Western Am,” Hammer said afterward. “It’s pretty special.”

No stroke-play medalist has prevailed in the 64-man match-play bracket since Ryan Moore in 2004. Before that, Tiger Woods (1996) was the most recent medalist champion.  


Match scoring from U.S. Amateur

U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


On the strength of his Western Am title, Hammer, 18, has soared to No. 18 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He credited his work with swing coach Cameron McCormick and mental coach Bob Rotella.

“Just really started controlling my iron shots really well,” said Hammer, who has worked with McCormick since 2015, when he qualified for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay as a 15-year-old.

“Distance control with my wedges and all my iron shots, playing different shots, has become really a strength in my game. I’ve really turned the putter on this year, and I’m seeing the lines and matching the line with the speed really well. I think that’s been the key to my summer.”

A two-time New Zealand Amateur champion, Hillier is ranked 27th in the world. He said that, entering the tournament, he would have been pleased just to make it to match play.

“But to come out on top, it’s amazing,” Hillier said. “Cole is a really good golfer and has been playing well lately. So, yeah, I’m in good company.”

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Tee times, TV schedule, stats for Wyndham Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2018, 9:55 pm

It's the last tournament of the PGA Tour's regular season as the top 125 in the FedExCup points list advance to next week's playoff event. Here's the key info for the Wyndham Championship. (Click here for tee times)

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.


Purse: $6 million

Course: Sedgefield Country Club (par 70, 7,127 yards)

Defending champion: Henrik Stenson. Last year he defeated Ollie Schniederjans by one stroke to earn his sixth career PGA Tour win.


Notables in the field

Henrik Stenson at the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Henrik Stenson

• Missed the cut last week at the PGA Championship

• Six top-10 finishes this year, including T-5 at the Masters and T-6 at the U.S. Open


Sergio Garcia

• Eight missed cuts in last 10 PGA Tour starts

• Currently 131 in FedExCup standings (33 points back of 125th)


Webb Simpson

• Five top-10 finishes in this event since 2010 (won in 2011)

• 56 under par in last five years in this event (best of any player in that span)

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Faldo: Woods told fellow Masters champ 'I'm done' in '17

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 7:42 pm

Fresh off his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, it's easy to get caught up in the recent success and ebullient optimism surrounding Tiger Woods. But it was not that long ago that Woods even hitting another competitive shot was very much in doubt.

Six-time major champ Sir Nick Faldo shed light on those darker times during a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show when he relayed a story from the 2017 Masters champions' dinner. The annual meal is one of golf's most exclusive fraternities, as only the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club is allowed to dine with the men who have each donned a green jacket.

Last spring Woods had not yet undergone spinal fusion surgery, and Faldo explained that Woods at one point turned to an unnamed Masters champ and grimly assessed his future playing chances.


Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos


"I know he whispered to another Masters champion, two Masters dinners ago, 'I'm done. I won't play golf again,'" Faldo said. "He said, 'I'm done. I'm done, my back is done.' He was in agony. He was in pain. His leg, the pain down his legs, there was nothing enjoyable. He couldn't move. If you watched footage of him, he couldn't even get in and out of the golf cart at the (2016) Ryder Cup when he was a vice captain."

But Woods opted for fusion surgery a few weeks later, and after a lengthy rehab process he returned to competition in December. His 2018 campaign has been nothing short of remarkable, with a pair of runner-up finishes to go along with a T-6 result at The Open when he held the outright lead on the back nine on Sunday.

After apparently even counting himself out, Woods is back up to 26th in the latest world rankings and appears in line to be added as a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup next month.

"What he's been able to do is unbelievable," Faldo said. "To turn this aruond, to get this spine fusion, it's completely taken away the pain. To have this mobility is absolutely amazing. Great on him, and great for golf."

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McDowell needs Wyndham result to maintain status

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:56 pm

For the first time in nearly three years, Graeme McDowell heads into an event with his PGA Tour status hanging in the balance.

The Ulsterman joined the Tour in 2006, and he has had nearly uninterrupted status since winning the 2010 U.S. Open. But McDowell's two-season exemption for winning the 2015 OHL Classic at Mayakoba only extends through this week, where he will start the Wyndham Championship at No. 143 in the season-long points race.

McDowell tied for fifth at Sedgefield Country Club in 2016, and he will likely need a similar result to crack the top 125 in the standings and retain his fully exempt status for the 2019 season. While he finished T-10 in Las Vegas in November, that remains his lone top-10 finish of the Tour season. The veteran's best results this year have come in Europe, where he tied for fifth at the Italian Open and finished T-12 at the BMW PGA Championship.


Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos


"I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself. I feel like it's not a do-or-die scenario for me," McDowell told reporters earlier this month at the Barracuda Championship. "I feel if I was 25 years old without a European Tour card to fall back on, it would be a do-or-die scenario. Certainly trying to put the pressure off, if I don't get myself into the top 125 it's not the end of the world for me. I still feel like I can play a great schedule next season."

By finishing Nos. 126-150 in points after this week, McDowell would retain conditional status that would likely ensure him at least 12-15 starts next season. He would also still have privileges as a past tournament champion.

But he's not the only winner from the 2015-16 season whose two-year exemption is on the verge of running out. Fabian Gomez (160th), Peter Malnati (164th) and Billy Hurley III (202nd) all need big results in Greensboro to keep their cards, while Shane Lowry, David Lingmerth and Matt Every all earned three-year exemptions for victories in 2015 but currently sit Nos. 139, 140 and 184 in points, respectively.

Last year four players moved into the top 125 thanks to strong play at Wyndham, with the biggest jump coming from Rory Sabbatini, who went from No. 148 to No. 122 after tying for fourth place.